Dear America

While studying this year I have become increasingly aware of Americas power in the world. I wasn't ever completely naive but just didnt know the extent to which the US impacts on the world's experience of social justice and human rights.
I seem to constantly be coming across sentences in readings that speak of Americas noncooperation with ideas/ other leaders that could lead to a better world. For example, they are the only state in the world save Somalia that hasn't signed the Child Rights Convention, they havent signed the Kyoto agreement(and they were the ones that threw the spanner in the works of last Decembers climate change deal), they have vetoed several ideas that would redistribute the worlds wealth such as a carbon/ currency tax and regularly veto trade agreements that would protect the global poor. Phew and wowzers. I am not meaning to be scathing, just expressing how some of the decisions the US leadership make have incredibly serious and damaging consequences. I also realise that many Americans are just as depressed about this as me, so am Bush bashing rather then America bashing. (And you are free to Blair bash! Just not Gordon Brown, I do think he is a little bit great.) (Plus I love America for: The Simpsons, Martin Luther King, Jazz, Donuts, pizza.) (Just kidding about that last one, okay)

However, times are a changing. I am really excited about this, just a little sorry I dont get a vote! But there are two things I can do-
one (this is a biggy) I can pray! I am so lifting up American voters, that somehow God would breathe into the global justice sphere through their decision, and will continue to sustain the newly elected leader. The thing is I just don't think I will ever have the ground to whinge about bad policy if I don't commit to this in the next few months!!
two - I can sign the Fabians letter to America!
It begins...
"Dear America,

As you choose your next President, the world will watch as the most powerful job in the world peacefully changes hands. In 2008, you will choose the man or woman who has the best vision of America's future and of your role in the world.

All of us, in every country, will be affected by the choice you make."

For some really good thoughts on the whole proceedings check out the Gods politics blog. It has regular reflections on the whole scene.


7 jumbo jets of kids a day

I was challenged on the weekend about Malaria- its the worlds single biggest killer, killing 3000 kids a day. This is an appalling fact when you think that it has been eradicated in several places including the U.S and most recently- in the sixties- the Netherlands. Surely the only reason we havent got rid of this easily preventable and easily treatable disease is because it is a poor peoples thing. Why would the developed world invest in something that doesn't effect them? (Just think about the impossible to cure HIV AIDS: it impacts people across the globe, so that becomes a priority research and action issue.)

I have just come across this website- a charity totally run by volunteers as it depends on your everyday people fund raising and putting on events in order to buy nets. Its all about nets. (Read The Economist if you think not.)
I think I might do a Coldplay/Angelina Jolie/Madonna and make this my one thing. (As well as the several other things that really get my goat too. Hehe.)


Fair Trade me please

Fair trade fortnight begins on Sunday. As promised here is something you can print off and slap on some non-fairtrade vending machines. (Send a pic if you get one good!) Please do send a letter as well though, letters generally get a good result.Tearfund have compiled a fantastic letter which you can copy and paste and adapt here.
Also EASTER is coming up, you can order Fair Trade mini eggs, normal easter eggs, baskets of chocolate easter yummies all here. Do Easter ethically!
And, lastly, if you are not busy on Sunday afternoon the young people at my church, The Rink, are doing a Fair Trade service, including brownies and a fair trade chocolate cake auction whoop whoop!


Genocide Olympics?

On Sunday I was completely appalled to hear that the British Olympics Association was asking all athletes going to the Olympics to, well, basically keep hush hush about the big, oppressive, human rights violating elephant in the room. Keep Quiet about Chinas business when in China or get on the plane home. I simply couldn't believe it, when all along the hope has been for some that at least having the Olympics in Beijing will get some of the issues raised and dialogued about. Well, not if everyone has been gagged. Shameful to be British.However, I just heard on the news that a little letter of encouragement I (and the thousands others) wrote a couple of months ago has paid off. Mr Steven Spielberg has resigned in his role of director for the Olympics. While he has been urging China to change policy and behavior towards Darfur, I like to think the public encouragement helped him realise that his pull out would be significant.
He says "...I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual. At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.... China’s economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change. The situation has never been more precarious..."
So, I just hope that more people, sponsors, athletes will have the courage to boycott the games too. I know it is complicated but working with China is essentially supporting their relationship with Darfur.A great website on all this stuff is www.miafarrow.org


Lessons in getting the British Public united on an issue:

suggest an exploration of Sharia Law in the context of Britain.
Which is just what the Archbishop Rowan Williams did last night. There has been an Almighty Outcry- the Sun and the Guardian, right wing and left wing, Christian and Atheist have all come together under the banner of "Ludicrous!" (Actually they have been a fair bit more aggressive and derogatory in their criticism.) The public, the press, the politicians- all are furious.

You might have guessed already from this blog and my mentioning of the AB and his writings that I do think he is a rather fab fellow, so, this may not be that surprising: I think it was a courageous and salient suggestion. We already have places where religion and law blur- the Jewish Beth Dihn- and he made it clear he wasn't advocating the violent part of Islamic justice and it was a c o m m e n t about a conversation that needs to happen- not a proposed bill. So, the brooha is unjustified but anyway i just want to make these points:

*The head of the Church of England was inviting a conversation about our multi faith society and the increasing significance of Islam in our society- this is a beautiful thing, both spiritually and for peace and cohesion in society.
*Why does every mention of Islam have to be so controversial? (An insight of our inherent racism/fears?)
*While the whole incidence has probably been awful for the AB, it has at least got the conversation going- which is what he hoped.

So, good on him I say, he continues to be a wise, insightful, adventurous visionary.


The Story of Stuff

If you have only 20 minutes to spare this entire week I recommend you sit down and watch The Story of Stuff. If you only have 3 minutes to spare each day then watch it in chapters on you tube. However you do it, watch it. It is an absolute masterpiece.
It is the most poignant and captivating portrayal of the consumer epidemic I have seen- perhaps so because of its beautiful simplicity and accuracy. (You can hold screenings and stuff which would be excellent material for youth/ home groups.) If you only have 6 minutes in your entire 2008 then watch this chapter:

As Annie points out it is suggested that our current unquenchable thirst for consuming crap stems from the post second world war period as great minds worked out a new framework for society. This quote from enormously important post war retail analyst, Victor Le Bow encapsulates the theory with this scary and non-satirical quote; "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate."
While I would argue our need to consume runs even deeper and further back then the middle of last century, the fact that people have collaborated to make us increasingly dependent on buying stuff is frightening, though not hard to believe. (In fact, Gillette created the concept of hairless, smooth female legs simply so they could capture a new market for their razor. Revolting. The advent of that knowledge was my descent into the world of the non-shaven woman where I still abide.)
There is a shop down the road from us that has a bit of a funny quote in the window "Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?" For some this is true because they literally do not have enough income to meet their most basic of needs, and it is a desperate truth. For most, i suspect, it is because our consumption has got a hold of us- our calender is re-worked around the arrival of the pay-check. Consumption seems to form the framework for living for most developed world citizens, and in turn our consumption re-defines relationships, desires, values and purpose.
Anyway, see the Story of Stuff, it's a must!